Date Thesis Awarded

5-2018

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Government

Advisor

Christine Nemacheck

Committee Members

Jackson Sasser

Claire McKinney

Abstract

During the 1980s and 1990s, anti-abortion violence and harassment targeted at reproductive health clinics spiked in response to religious and political mobilization around the national decriminalization of abortion. To combat violence, harassment, and mass protests at clinics, 16 states and DC enacted abortion clinic access laws. These laws typically prohibit certain activities, such as obstruction and vandalism, and some create no-protest buffer zones that restrict clinic protests. Most research on clinic access laws concentrates on how these laws affect levels of anti-abortion violence and disruption targeted at clinics. Other literature focuses on the tensions between pro-life speech and privacy/abortion rights that buffer zone laws have engendered. This paper seeks to link these two bodies of literature by exploring the contexts in which clinic access laws are enacted. Using logistic regression analyses, this research evaluates the relationship between indicators of state abortion policy-making environments with the likelihood that a state will enact an abortion clinic access law. Further, it investigates how states draw on their past approach to free speech rights when enacting buffer zone laws. Ultimately, this study finds that clinic access law enactment is significantly predicted by the percent of female legislators in a state and the enactment of the federal-level clinic access law in 1994. In doing so, it demonstrates that access laws are redistributive policies, not morality policies. Thus, this research complicates the traditional depiction of abortion policy, showing that mass-level polarization into dichotomous pro-choice/anti-abortion and liberal/conservative campus does not influence the production of all forms of abortion policy.

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